Alleged Victims Receive An Official Voice In Criminal Courts

Posted on in Criminal Law

victims rights, rights of the accused, Illinois criminal defense attorneyGovernor Bruce Rauner recently signed HB 1121, the Crime Victim’s Bill of Rights. What are some important rights that defendants have in a criminal case?

The founder of Marsy's Law for All proclaimed that the measure gives alleged crime victims "a much stronger voice in the Illinois criminal justice system." This law follows up on a Constitutional amendment that voters adopted in November 2014. Among other provisions, Illinois’ version of Marsy’s Law requires prosecutors to keep alleged crime victims informed of a case’s progress, gives victims the right to be present at plea hearings, and clearly delineates victims’ rights.

California passed the first Marsy’s Law in 2008, and that measure is arguably the strongest victims’ rights provision in the United States

You Have the Right To…

Many of the provisions in HB 1121 were already being practiced in Cook County courts, but the law does give victims a formal guarantee. Just as it is important for alleged victims to know their rights, alleged wrongdoers also need to know their rights. Here are a few of the more significant ones:

  • Remain Silent: You do not have to answer questions and you do not have to allow the police to conduct a search of your person or vehicle, in most cases.
  • Be Free from Unreasonable Searches: The law in this area is basically a pendulum that swings back and forth. Sometimes it seems like the courts ignore the Fourth Amendment and give law enforcement broad powers; for example, the Supreme Court recently ruled that an officer can pull over a motorist even if the driver is not technically breaking the law.
  • Reasonable Bail: Pretrial release is very important for a number of reasons. In a nutshell, the Eighth Amendment requires that bail be the amount necessary to secure the defendant’s appearance at trial, and not an amount that punishes the defendant for doing something "bad."
  • The Presumption of Innocence: As far as the law is concerned, every defendant is wrongfully accused, unless and until the prosecutor proves otherwise. In fact, the defendant does not need to present any evidence at trial; the presumption of innocence alone is sufficient for an acquittal.
  • A Jury Trial: 90 percent of the world’s jury trials occur in the United States. That statistic speaks volumes about the importance of individual rights in our system.

As important as these rights are, they are largely just words on paper without an effective and aggressive courtroom advocate. For prompt assistance, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in Arlington Heights today. Call Scott F. Anderson at 847-253-3400.